One way psychotherapy works is helping you find words to name an inner chaos. Naming the chaos can help tame it, encourage it, organize it, or just look at it longer.
The Judeo-Christian story of our origins, Genesis, even starts out in its very first lines with a story about how naming things can end the chaos of pure experience: When God first created all of this stuff within and around us, “the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep…. And God said, ‘Let there be light.’ …He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’” That was the first day. The wash of material—of life and light and breath and mind—could only be called a “day,” and so organized with its meanings and purposes, when one thing was given a name and distinguished from other things.
Therapy is not the creation of morality or eternity that the Bible describes, but it is a creation of our individual worlds; in that creation, we can name and separate parts of ourselves. Naming allows us to organize and encourage some actions over others.
Names can, for instance, tame a rush of emotions, or clarify states of being. If a shy person want to be less shy, she might put a name on that discomfort in her belly and reluctance to talk as “shyness.” Naming can help make a strange state of being feel more familiar, more manageable. She can also name the flip side: her “social self.” Naming a “shy self” and “social self” can allow her to know and encourage each—she can promise them action.